DIR/WRI: Gerard Lough • PRO: Gerard Lough, Tanya McLaughlin • DOP: Greg Rouladh • ED: Greg Rouladh • CAST: Michael Parle, Jack Dean Shepherd, Claire Blennerhasset, Sarah Louise Carney, Aidan O’ Sullivan, Eoin Leahy
Gerard Lough makes the transition from shorts to features with this anthology horror/sci-fi in which a pair of seemingly mismatched criminals Mike (played by the brilliant Michael Parle) and Luke (Jack Shepherd), who break into a house as part of an insurance scam. When in the house the pair, with time to kill, start telling each other tall tales. One involves a pair of friends who discover a mysterious, powerful, potentially alien device which pits them against each other. The other tale follows a business woman who provides a prostitution service for wealthy fetishists and how her attempts to escape this line of work leads her down stranger, more sinister rabbit-holes.
This ambitious film is full of distinctive flavour. The set-up and stories are certainly unusual in terms of an Irish film. Lough exhibits a very particular style in how’s it shot – lots of underexposed cinematography, and in its soundtrack, which is heavy on impressive synthesized ’80s style music.
Lough has no qualms about juxtaposing different genres and sub-genres and also attempts to tackle a variety of diverse subjects from the economy and housing crisis to grand philosophical concerns. The result is a film that looks and feels very different to most Irish cinema. It doesn’t always add up and the complex nature of its presentation can be sometimes difficult to follow with the anthology film being a famously difficult trick to pull off
The special effects are also somewhat creaky in places and the budgetary restrictions do show. However, Lough must be commended for making a virtue of this. He himself has cited the New Romantic music scene and films such as Tony Scott’s bonkers Catherine Deneuve/David Bowie vampire picture The Hunger as big influences aesthetically and the effects of the film when integrated with these aesthetic influences work to create a referential B-movie style as opposed to incompetence. It is heartening to see a film as singular as this being made in Ireland, even if not every aspect of it works.
The real star of the show here is Michael Parle. Best known probably for his role in Ivan Kavanagh’s outstanding Tin Can Man, he here once again makes for a magnetic screen presence. Parle could easily lay claim to being Ireland’s first genre movie ‘star’. One is reminded of B-movie luminaries such as Udo Kier in his innate ability to balance just the right amount of knowingness and earnestness in the – often sinister – characters he plays. We need to see more of this man in Irish cinemas.
The other performers unfortunately often cannot match Parle for his presence and there are times, when Parle is off-screen, this his absence is felt somewhat and one yearns for a return to the framing story in which he is a part of, rather than the tall tales themselves.
Despite these flaws it is pleasing to see a film that neither looks nor sounds like any other Irish film historically or contemporaneously being made and further reinforces the notion that new ideas both formally and thematically are now being explored in independent Irish cinema.
108 minutes (See IFCO for details)
Night People is released 4th September 2015